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You can help NASA find landing sites on the asteroid Bennu



Calling on all citizen scientists: NASA needs your help. The Space Agency's OSIRIS REx Asteroid Bennu mission requires additional pairs of eyes to identify the sampling site on the asteroid – and to look for other potentially science-interesting objects.

The space probe OSIRIS-REx has been in use since 3 December 2018 and is now orbiting the asteroid. The main objective of the mission is to get a sample from the asteroid and return the sample to Earth for a detailed analysis. The mission team must find a safe landing and sampling location that will aid sampling and be further investigated.

One of the big challenges the team discovered after the spacecraft arrived at the asteroid was that Bennu has an extremely rocky surface and any boulder poses a threat to the spacecraft's safety. [19659002] To speed up sample selection, the team asks volunteer citizen scientists to create a hazard map by counting stones.

"For the spacecraft's safety, the mission team needs a comprehensive catalog of all the rocks near the potential sample. I invite members of the public to assist the OSIRIS REx mission team in accomplishing this important task," Dante said Lauretta, Senior Investigator of OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Screenshot of the CosmoQuest Bennu online mapping t ool. (Photo Credit: CosmoQuest)

NASA collaborates with CosmoQuest, a project of the Planetary Science Institute that supports citizen science initiatives. The volunteers will perform the same tasks as the planetary scientists – surveying Bennu's boulders and mapping his rocks and craters – using a simple web interface. They also mark other scientifically interesting features of the asteroid for further investigation.

So what do you have to do to start mapping stones?

The CosmoQuest Mapping app requires a computer with a larger screen and a mouse or trackpad capable of accurate markups. The CosmoQuest team has an interactive tutorial that helps volunteers, plus additional user support through a Discord community and live streaming sessions on Twitch.

Screenshot of the CosmoQuest online mapping tool. (Photo Credit: CosmoQuest)

The Bennu mapping campaign will continue until July 10, when the mission begins with the sample site selection. Once the primary and secondary locations are selected, the spacecraft begins to provide more detailed reconnaissance to map the two locations to a resolution of less than one centimeter.

The mission's Touch-and-Go sampling maneuver (TAG) is scheduled for July 2020. Return to Earth in September 2023 with your cargo.

Opt in here as a Bennu Mapper.

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